12 schoolgirl mistakes to avoid when buying a bellydance costume

DSCF2756.120037Some of our stunning successful exam candidates looking gorgeous!

Do you have an upcoming hafla or showcase? Are you thinking of investing in some bellydance bling? Then today’s blog post is essential reading for you if you want to avoid some common pitfalls.

This week I’ve put together my 12 essential tips for ensuring you only ever invest in costuming that makes you feel and look utterly divine.

Don’t even think about buying your next cossie before you check out this week’s blog! Notepad and pen ready? Let’s get started …

  • Beware of the Cinderella Syndrome

You’ve seen your dream fairy-tale costume, it’s absolutely perfect and you just know you’ll transform into an exquisite goddess the moment you put it on. Or, you end up buying a costume that doesn’t quite fit just because you’ve fallen in love with the design.

Some costumes can easily be altered or adjusted, but many require expertise that is beyond most of us. Sometimes you just have to accept that it wasn’t meant to be. This leads me on to point 2 …

  • Be honest about your “side-boob”

I’ve done it, perhaps you’ve done it too. That is, had an emperor’s-new-clothes-moment when you tried on a gorgeous bra top and convinced yourself that it fits properly, despite the fact that you were clearly trying to wedge those puppies into a space way too small. You realize that you’re essentially playing the kid’s game Whack a Mole where you squash one down but another one pops up the other side. That’s not what I want for you.

It might be gutting to admit it (and no, you probably can’t drape or sew some material over to make it look like it fits, it’s a structural issue) and I mean these words with love: it doesn’t fit and you’ll have to find another, bigger, one.

  • Avoid always buying the same colour

It can be comforting and reassuring to know what suits you, however don’t be afraid to try something completely different and get out of your comfort zone. If you need some imagination, try asking your friends what you think might suit you (small caveat, ask friends whose sense of style and eye for colour you admire).

If you have the budget to get your costume made, get ideas from the designer as to what might suit you. Try not to be resistant to all the suggestions, especially if they come from a professional designer, they know what they’re talking about and you may be surprised at what you’re able to wear. If I hadn’t listened to Hoda Zaki many years ago telling me I should try green I would probably still only be wearing navy blue costumes.

* Think outside the box and consider prints, patterns, styles and fabrics that you wouldn’t normally choose. Dig deep into your confidence and go for it – if it helps to hear it: permission granted.

  • Don’t put all your pennies in one basket

If you are on a budget or you want to build up your bellydance wardrobe quickly with a few different costumes, don’t go for costumes where the belt is sewn all in one into the skirt. Rather, go for separate bra, belt and skirt sets so you can mix and match different skirts and harem pants and get several different looks out of just a couple of costumes. Then you can build up your collection of skirts and easily (and affordably) get a fresh look. Buying a super distinctive costume is great but it won’t leave you with many options.

  • Give body stockings a chance

Not all of us want to bare our tummies and that’s absolutely fine, you don’t have to. Though if deep down you’d love to wear a two piece but feel a little shy, try using a gorgeous sparkly body stocking underneath to ease you into it. If it helps to hear it: permission granted.

  • Think about combining things that you already have in the wardrobe

Be creative and combine different colour bedlahs and skirts. If you’re scared about doing this a great way to start is with a gold or silver bedlah that you can mix and match with different skirts, trousers and layer up with belts and other embellishments.

  • Consider what you’re letting yourself in for when buying general size costumes.

Although it can be cost-saving and practical, there are many hidden horrors when buying a one-size-fits-all outfit. Buying your costume isn’t the end of the story. You will have to double check the fit (especially if you’ve bought it online) and how if shifts about when you dance. Is it too long? Will you trip over? Is the skirt loose? Do you need to reinforce it with elastic? Will is slide down? Does the bra need padding out? Is it see-through?

As a rule of thumb: don’t expect anything you order online to fit you properly and always be prepared to invest some extra time in making it fit you properly.

Another danger of buying online: beware of see through material. That luscious, full, rich-coloured skirt you saw on ebay can sometimes turn out to be one thin flimsy layer of chiffon. This can lead to the unenviable situation of your undies being on full show; not a great look unless that’s what you’re going for.  Skimpy material isn’t necessarily a problem but you’ll have to have something waiting in the wings to layer it up with.

  • Beware of buying online when having no or little information about the company you’re buying from.

I’ll tell you straight: I’ve been burned. I bought a costume from a company abroad that I knew relatively little about and yep, my costume never showed up and there was no customer service in sight.  Stick to vendors that you know you can trust. Also, always check the sellers’ returns and refunds policy before buying.

  • Never order a costume too close to a show, especially if the seller is abroad.

It should be an exciting time when you’re building up to a show and waiting for your costume to arrive the week before can take the edge off it a bit! If you have to put in a last minute online order, try to buy from somewhere based in your home country who can offer you next day delivery.

  • Avoid choosing a costume because it looks good on somebody else.

Seeing a costume you like is a bit like falling in love: you think about it all the time, you obsess over it and you just want to HAVE it. However, if you’ve seen a costume on another dancer or model then bear in mind that you are looking at her as well as the dress. It may be a costume that you’ve seen on a top professional dancer, in which case you may have been wooed by her dancing as well as her outfit. The costume may well have been designed specifically for her, her body shape, hair colour and dance style. Think carefully and objectively about whether this costume will be right for you.

  • Think twice before buying into trends and go for a classic style. * disclaimer: unless you have pots of money or can easily whip up your own on a sewing machine

This is especially true if you want to go on to sell your costume so you can afford the next one. If you have a very specifically stylized, fashion-conscious costume then you may very quickly feel that “everybody’s seen this costume now” and you need another one. It’s also tricky to sell a costume that looks dated and out of fashion.

  • Add your own embellishments

The classic giveaway that you are a bellydancer goes something like this: you regularly buy up broken jewelry, go to charity shops to snag bargain belts, tassel shawls and jewelry, you recycle old costume jewelry to customize your costumes, your friends and family have started giving you gawdy accessories they found in the bargain bin at Primark.

* BONUS RESOURCE: check out my interview with Princess Farhana and home in at around 32min 50s  where the Princess gives us super detailed instructions on how to get a bedlah costume to fit perfectly, plus other surprizing pearls of wisdom about costuming. This really is priceless advice from one of the world’s best known bellydancers so be sure to take a look.

One final point for ambitious student dancers and fledgling professionals:

* If you are making the transition into professional performance work then you will need a professional costume that fits you perfectly. It’s not the time to cut corners when you are trying to send out the message that you want to be seen as a pro. Ideally you will either have your costume professionally made and fitted, or you will have it altered and adjusted by a professional to get it just right. It might sound harsh and a little unforgiving, but presenting yourself as a professional means putting yourself up for scrutiny from head to toe, both from your audience and from whoever is paying you. First impressions are crucial, take the time to get your costuming perfect and you’ll be sure to make an impact for all the right reasons. Be prepared to shell out a lot of money to invest in your first 3 costumes, then think of regularly selling them on and replacing them to keep your wardrobe fresh.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog, if so I’d love it if you were to share the love with your bellydance friends!

Are you a student local to the mother-ship here in Reading, UK? Then I’d like to invite you to join us for some really beautiful events that we have coming up this Summer starting with a day full of dance  on Sunday June 12th.

In the morning I’ll be teaching a sassy, shaabi-esque choreography in a punchy 90 minute workshop. It’s suitable for beginners upwards so don’t be shy! Expect plenty of drills and technique to help you polish up the routine. Go here to book your spot.

Then, in the afternoon, we have our annual BellyQueen showcase and award presentations. This is where you get to see a dazzling line up of bellydance performers including the successful exam candidates and SMBA Teaching Apprentice graduates  showcasing their Bronze, Silver and Gold routines.

I’m proud to say that BellyQueen is a charity event and all proceeds from it go to the amazing Plan UK, specifically to their Girls Fund which helps to ensure that vulnerable girls all over the world are given the opportunity to safely gain an education safely. This is a great opportunity for you to contribute to a really important and timely cause, I’d love to see you there.

If you’d like to snap up one of the remaining tickets of the workshop and/or BellyQueen, go here and book your spot.

Finally, I am suuuuuuuuper excited to say that an unmissable “Drills and Skills Workshop: Pilates for bellydance with technique drills” will be running in conjunction with SMBA in Central Reading from 7.30-9.30pm on Tuesdays 19th July (Sold out) and 26th July (just a few spaces left!). We only have a limited number of places and by popular demand we added the second session on Tuesday 26th July (hint: it’s likely to book up fast).

The workshop is hosted and part taught by SMBA’s coach Natasha. Natasha is currently one of our fantastic troupe level coach and choreographers and is known for her high energy teaching and precision technique. She’s teaming up with Caroline Rutzler, an expert in conditioning top level dancers through Pilates to deliver a 2 hour session that will really pack a punch in terms of achieving sound, isolated and safe technique. How lucky are we????

Find out exactly what to expect and book your place on Natasha’s site here (there’s an early bird price too).

Thank you for reading, I really do appreciate it, and of course remember to share it with all your bellydance friends 🙂

Love and shimmies,
Helen x

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